Final Portrait OliveI left Rome for the US on June 30 after sitting in on a critique, the afternoon of 29th, of a design project of the summer program of the University of Minnesota School of Design. Gayla Lindt runs the University’s summer program in Rome. The students, from all disciplines—including architecture, interior design, graphics and retail—presented ideas for a project that would celebrate the unification of the country in 1861. The theme was the better understanding of the arts.  It was  a great afternoon immersing myself back in academia—and seeing the enthusiasm of the students.

I then travelled to Blacksburg, Virginia for a three day visit with my three daughters and their families—including my beloved granddaughter Olive. It was a relaxing and wonderful time. I spent as much time as possible with Olive—bonding is so critical in this relatively short time I will have together with her on this planet. We swam, bowled, walked, played and ate together. I also spent time crafting a photograph that will be used for the portrait I will start this summer. It was so wonderful to see my daughters and their families. The are settling into life in Blacksburg. I miss her and them already.

The rest of the week was spent in Minneapolis visiting dermatologist, dentists and friends. I have a cancerous spot on my face and will be having PDT (photodynamic treatment) in August on my scalp. Not fun getting old. I am paying a heavy price for all those years without sunblock when I worked in my father’s service station. The time in Minnesota was made easier by having Lea there. We both returned to Merida on the 8th.

A postscript. This was originally mean to be standalone. But I am appending it to this blog for the record. This is my first week away from Firenze. My inner feelings are wrapped in sadness.

Sadness that I am not in a city that breathes and reinforces the artist. Firenze is, and has been, for centuries, a city that thrives on the interdependence of life, art and culture. One sees everyday examples of the symbiotic relationship between beauty and the elevation of our culture.

Riding the bus to the train station to go back to Mexico, a young and beautiful girl asked me, in English, did I like her hometown. We struck up a conversation and suddenly she said, “Every morning I ride the bus to my job as a sous chef, I am grateful I live in a beautiful city. Just look at how eternal it is. I get to see this everyday and I arrive at work a little happier.” As she exited the bus she looked back and smiled. Her smile contained centuries of the Italian love of beauty.

But coincidental with my returning home, as I fly at 30,000 feet above the Atlantic, I am watching Hidden Figures. This movie, while ostensibly about three very talented mathematicians, was more deeply about equality.

Why am I sad? Because the current political and cultural situation in the U.S. is anti-science, anti-equality, anti-woman, anti-decency and anti-discovery. I am hurting inside. I am hoping for a time when all lives mattered. I am crying for a time when we, as a nation, believed in the impossible—like going to the moon. We strove for greatness by believing in every person’s humanity and potential. Of course, having been raised in the south, I am not naive. Not everyone did. The movie did a reasonable job of depicting the hate and racism. What is sad is that 56 years later, black mathematicians are being treated with the same disdain that these three gifted ladies were treated. What was most revealing to me is how these three women’s intelligence threatened the white male scientists. This, to me, explains a great deal about what is rotten at the core of our society: an inability to celebrate and learn from the talents of others. A selfish, almost primordial instinct to kill the competition.  This killing takes many forms: gerrymandering districts, denying equal access, elimination of safety social nets, starving education, regulating rates to reduce, amrather than encourage, alternatives to fossil fuels—the list is long. Such a insane trait.

We have lost our way. We are on a collision course whose design is motivated by greed, irrational Christian fundamentalism, tribal instincts and fear.

  • Can we, as a nation, collectively reestablish our spirit of respect, adventure and discovery bounded through color blindness?
  • Can we put aside religious zeal and the blinded need to homogenize all of humanity to the narrow view of 1/6 of the world’s population?
  • Can the arrogance and imposition of a segment of the cretinous white male population be diminished or eradicated through collective love?
  • Can respect for and understanding of intellectual honesty and science be regained?

I don’t know any answers. I do wonder if the self-possessed ever stop and reflect on their ancestry beyond a few generations —back to the beginning. I am not talking about the myths in Genesis.

Why are they obsessed with destruction of their own nest? What creates this isolationism that is figuratively eating its own young through destruction of their children’s future?

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